This time of year, when classes start to kick into gear, you may be faced with increasing expenses due to college tuition, textbooks and school supply purchases, daycare costs, or enrollment fees for new extracurricular activities.
This is an opportune time to reassess your financial situation and reset your priorities and habits. Here are some timely and practical tips to save you money.
1. Save on Pick Up and Drop Off
Going back to school can make an additional dent in your already-high gas budget, as you drive your kids to and from classes and after-school programs. You can adjust your budget by:
• Researching the most efficient routes.
• Using digital tools, such as Gas Buddy or the Gas Guru app to locate gas stations with the lowest prices in the area.
• Joining neighborhood carpool groups to get your students to school more efficiently.
College students may also be able to take advantage of free transportation provided by their university (bike shares and bus programs), or of public transit options.
2. Check for Discounts
With teen drivers in the household, insurance premiums can add up. Thankfully, many insurance companies offer good grades discounts that allow students to save between 5% and 25% on their insurance based on their academic performance.
You may also be able to request discounts from your phone, cable, and internet providers. Ask about plans that align with your family’s needs, especially if you’re adding pre-teens or teens to your bill. If you’re open to shopping other providers, you may be able to take advantage of a promotional rate designed to encourage you to switch.
Your high school and college students may dine out or shop for retail goods more independently. Remind them to show their student IDs for discounts at stores, restaurants, and movies – even saving a couple of dollars can make a big difference in the long run!
3. Plan Your Meals
If your children participate in after-school extracurricular activities, you may find yourself rushing between events and wondering whether they’ve had enough nutrition to sustain them through additional hours of physical activity.
It can be tempting to run through a drive-thru. However, if you plan your weekly menus and grocery lists with these activities in mind, you can bring a snack instead of buying something less nutritious and more expensive when you’re in a rush.
4. Do a Closet Cleanout
Instead of spring cleaning, do a little late-summer purging. By taking time to inventory your closets, you can make sure you’re accounting for items that have been outgrown or that are worn out. This will give you an understanding of what you need so that you don’t make unnecessary purchases and college students don’t fill their dorms/apartments with unnecessary items.
As new back-to-school clothes are added into your wardrobe, the old ones can save or make you money. Consider swapping with another family to cut both your costs, have a garage sale, or post them for sale on an online marketplace like Mercari, Offer Up, or Poshmark.
5. Shop New-to-You
Back-to-school shopping is a significant budget line item for most families. In addition to school supplies, you also have to buy clothes and shoes for growing kids!
Fortunately, thrift shopping never goes out of style. Your student might have a blast shopping with you at garage sales or thrift stores and finding one-of-a-kind items in the process. If you have friends with older children, you may be able to plan swaps, giving your kids a new wardrobe without the new-item price tag.
For items that take a lot of wear-and-tear (like shoes, lunchboxes, and backpacks), you may want to shop retail and get something that will last. If you do, make sure you use a credit card that pays you cash back on your purchases.
6. Find New Options for Family Time
Instead of going out to dinner or the movies for family time, find a cause you believe in and start volunteering as a family. You’ll create lasting memories of the impact you made together; no costs involved.
Plus, on the practical side, volunteering can help your students gain experience, build relationships that could lead to internships/summer jobs, or bolster their college applications.
7. Discuss Financial Expectations
To build your plan for financial success during the coming school year, get the whole family on board and invested.
Have a conversation with your kids about your expectations regarding their savings or what they’re required to buy for themselves. Can they get a part-time job if they’re in college, or do you want them to focus on their studies? If they’re at home, can they take on some chores for spending money?
Share your goals and what you’ll do when you achieve them. If they know there’s a fun family outing ahead, it may make it easier to forego those little extra treats.
Back to school gives you a great starting point to get back to savings after a hectic summer. With these tips, you can score an A+ on your fall financial goals!